Mackman Research was commissioned by Chelmsford Borough Council in Essex to research the use of parks and gardens, specifically by families on low incomes and minority groups. The research process was split into two phases. The first phase sought to audit all Borough Council run parks and gardens in a bid to discover who was using the parks; how frequently and for what purpose they were using the parks. The results of the first phase informed the second phase of the research; this gave way to direct targeting of unemployed (in receipt of benefits) residents.
Mackman Research used a mixed methodology approach which combined quantitative statistical representation (of the local population) with qualitative data gathering methods. Our researchers approached all respondents on a face-to-face basis and interviewed a total of 816 respondents. All surveys were anonymous and respondents were notified of this.
The data gathering process was split into 2 phases. The 1st phase set out to record who was using each park and test the theory of low-income non-users. The phase 1 survey population contained 445 respondents. This figure achieved a 95% confidence level and a +/- 4.64% confidence interval, based upon a total population of 162,000.
Phase 2 investigated barriers to park use and directly targeted those who are not using parks and gardens. Data gathering commenced face-to-face at the Job Centre and Benefits Office and door-to-door with unemployed residents. During this stage, data collection was targeted to specific geographical areas of deprivation with high numbers of unemployed residents. 371 respondents completed the phase 2 questionnaire, achieving a confidence level of 95% and a confidence interval of +/-5%, of a low-income population of 9,500.
The parks research has been invaluable to the Borough Council and is thought to be the first of its kind within the UK. The research has helped identify areas for improvement and informed marketing to help raise awareness of the parks and gardens, encouraging more of Chelmsford’s residents to enjoy the wonderful parks close to them. The parks research was awarded top prize for Market Research at the annual Government Business Awards in 2011.